Story By Izuchukwu Ozoemena.
In a bizarre move, the House of Representative Committee on Customs has began a parallel round of investigations into import procedures infractions by some companies after its counterpart in the Senate had completed a similar exercise.
The Senate committee on Customs led by Hope Uzodimma had probed the infractions on payment of duties during which it invited indicted companies to appear before it. While some of the companies were cleared, those found to have underpaid requisite charges were issued debit notes and directed to pay the outstanding money.
The same set of companies have now been directed to appear before the James Faleke House committee on Customs to face similar charges. However, this has fueled concerns in the manufacturing and shipping communities on what the real objectives of the parallel investigation by the committee is all about.
Faleke vowed that the committee was determined to carry out a thorough forensic investigation in line with its mandate. “The unpatriotic and fraudulent act of some of these companies had cost the nation a lot financially. We are talking of losses probably in trillions of Naira that should have accrued to our common purse.”
The committee has proceeded to invite some of the companies to appear before it. The cause for concern is hinged on the fact that it is virtually the same set of companies that had appeared before the Senate with culpable companies having already paid the extra charges determined by the Uzodimma Senate committee.
The companies are, however, querying the propriety of the House conducting a similar investigation after its Senate counterpart had completed one and all issues settled. “We are talking of serious business organizations who are responsible corporate citizens,” the chief executive of one of the invited companies told Business and Maritime West Africa. “In our own case, we were completely absolved of any infraction. There were only issues with documentation that were quickly resolved. I know some companies that were issued debit notes and they paid. Is the House going to reissue another debit note to them?”
According to a management staff of Diamond Star Port & Terminals Ltd, one of the companies being “investigated”, many of them had already been cleared by the Senate because whatever “infractions” arose from technical issues not intended to defraud the government.
The spokesman of another of the invited companies said they are not inclined to appear before the committee to “go through the same process all over again. We paid some money to the Customs after our processes were evaluated by the Senator Uzodimma committee. That should be it. This is just an attempt to waste everybody’s time,” the spokesman who did not want to be identified said.
“We have received their invitation and we are consulting with our lawyers on the next move. I am inclined to go to court and seek interpretation of the propriety of this invitation by a complementary arm of the same National Assembly that dealt with the matter earlier. They have to explain what their real motive is,” the managing director of one the companies said.
An expert in parliamentary matters (name withheld) faulted the House’s move as self-seeking, or trying to attract undue relevance to itself. He referred to them as “idle people” out to create the impression that they are working. “Why investigate a matter the Senate had earlier sorted out? Are they implying that the Senate must have compromised itself or that they are the ones to do a better job?”
Some of the companies invited by the House committee in the first batch include, Seaview Emporium Ltd, Pancham International ltd, Alfatek Integrated Ventures, Verona Industries Ltd, Vital Products Ltd, Odun & Remy Trading Company.
Others are Mac Resolute Service Ltd, Viscous Global Investment Ltd, Fadobra Ventures Ltd, China Homes and Office Equipment, Links World Redemption Enterprises, SCC Nigeria Limited, J.I. Ejison International Nigeria Limited, and Tak Continental Ltd.
Expected to appear before the committee are Metal African Steel Products Limited, Sunshine Guest House &Hotel Ltd, Elim Top Suite Ltd, Noktel Resort Hotel, Naks Hotels & Tower Ltd, Luxurium Leisure Service, Chelsea Hotel, and Vinimo.
Also invited by the committee are Hotel Dabras, Skills Suites, Amassco Ltd, Cynergy Suites Ltd, Olam Group, News Engineering Ltd, Diamond Star Port & Terminals Ltd, Rite Aid Wire Industries Limited and Amioun Steel Limited.
Investigative Hearing Commences from March 7, 2018 with Faleke saying that all the companies invited are expected to appear on the date allotted to them unfailingly or risk sanctions